Tuesday, March 31, 2015 4:16 PM

What's in a Word?

Most four year olds are speaking in rather predictable sequence, crafting sentences, relating personal experiences when prompted by an adult or others and seem to have the ability to understand communications via speech, song, video, and stories. They have many words in their vocabulary and it is fascinating to watch their attempts at making sense in a methodical fashion.

Then there's grand-daughter Leah, our special little princess that has been diagnosed with autism. I have often wondered what is going on in her mind, how she processes all kinds of data flooding her brain, and when she would begin to speak...then it happened. She has only spoken a few words, but to her family, it's as though she is a gifted orator.

I was enamored by a recent video of a teenage girl who is challenged with autism. She communicates exclusively via the computer and types what she wants the world to know. She expressed a plea to those interacting with her to not judge her just because she does not speak in a traditional fashion and she wanted folks to know, "I'm in here, please don't speak about me, speak to me". Wow-that hit me hard. I have been guilty of speaking "around" Leah and not to her. I am going to purposefully speak directly to her and not about her when she is present. I know in my heart of hearts that "she is in there" and one of these days I long for the mystery of her methods to be made clear to me.

This also caused me to think about when I worked at the bed side caring for trauma patients who were comatose. I would have to remind myself and my colleagues to be sensitive about what we verbalized in the presence of the patient. There were and are countless testimonials of people waking from the fog and indicating they heard and understood everything; wow! The mind-very powerful and at times cryptic.